Wednesday, 13 July 2011

'Limited Life' of Social Care Services

West Berkshire Council has promised to intervene despite not being legally responsible for the care of residents in three homes put at risk by the collapse of the country's largest private care home operator Southern Cross.

However, after receiving many similar public assurances and only weeks after being given a four-month period of grace to find a solution managers have forced the Darlington-based company to close and it will be broken up.

Trading in shares ceased as a plan was proposed which would see shareholders 'wiped out'. Under this scheme 250 homes are to be transferred to current landlords holding care accreditation and the remaining 500 are expected to be sold to other operators.

Problems arose as the company's economic model became unsustainable when property rental increases of 30% combined with consistent inflation of 4-5% over several years and reduced public fees caused by recent cuts to council budgets. The company posted losses of £311m in the last financial year and proposed slashing its workforce by 3,000. Shares trading at £6 each in late 2007 were suspended at 6.25p earlier this week.

Of the 752 centres threatened, the homes in Hungerford, Tilehurst and Burghfield Common providing places for 67 people are among those designated as on 'limited life', while six other residential facitilies in the county face a 'worrying wait' over their fate, including one with 137 residents in Rodway Road, Tilehurst, and those  on London Road, Ascot and Murdoch Road, Wokingham.

English Community Care Association chief executive, Martin Green, explained that the collapse of Southern Cross indicated funding in the independent care sector "is very much an issue that other providers are facing because of the levels of resource that they have to deliver care on."

David Rogers from the Local Government Association concentrated on the immediate, commenting, "a solution has been found which will hopefully avoid major upheaval for the vulnerable people involved."

Meanwhile Tracey Morgan, chief executive of Berkshire East Age Concern, 'hit out' at 'cracks in the system' of social care to back calls made by the Dilnot Commission in its' report 'How Will We Pay For Elderly Care?' fornational standards to raise the threshold for funded care by from £23,250 to £100,000, which should provide wider access for additional numbers of people as an aging population is squeezed by the double-whammy of rising costs and low personal savings.

Records show 3,052 people in Slough benefitted from adult social care last year, more than 2% of inhabitants, including 263 in residential care and 202 in nursing homes. The Economist reports demand for adult care has risen 9% in four years nationwide, but councils are now facing 5-8% cuts in this area.

Writing in a post in which she gives her backing to the coalition government's response to the Dilnot Commission report, 'Vision for adult social care: capable communities and active citizens', Labour's Cllr Rachel Eden trumpets Reading's signing of a cross-party declaration, arguing that 'now is the time to reform Adult Social Care'.

She also highlights the growing pressure on services as an aging population increases demand, blaming a  'postcode lottery' and budget cuts which she says are the product of low economic growth.

Wokingham's Conservative MP John Redwood discusses the proposals, casting the spectre of new taxes such as Dilnot's preferred option of National Insurance contributions to be paid by retirees or the resurrection of Labour's notorious 'Death Tax'.

LibDems understandably offered only muted support for Labour's move to support a Parliamentary Early Day Motion and their calls to 'build consensus on meaningful reform'.

Cllr Daisy Benson gives an extensive explanation that even according to the council's own findings council policies fail to meet the needs of carers, and emphasising the needs of formal care over informal care ends up putting more of a burden on the 'hidden heroes' who look after loved ones in their own homes and are often in an even more vulnerable position - she estimates there are more than 11,000 informal carers living in Reading alone, almost 1-in-10 of the whole population!

Gareth Epps is more sanguine about the Dilnot report, pointing out that the price of blanket funding increases for the 'baby-boomer' generation is likely to off-set by 'unjust' reductions for younger generations, contravening guidelines to ensure equality across age-groups in dealing with the spending implications of policy changes.

As if to prove his point Slough Borough Council came under heavy criticism by Ofsted inspectors in a recent report into child protection services.

Auditors described 'inadequate quality of risk assessment, care planning, managerial oversight' and highlighted several challenges in case work, such as cases where reviews to reflect changes in family situation were not undertaken, and difficulties in enforcing care agreements caused by insufficient and inaccurate communication with families.

They found a lack of contingency planning had resulted in 'systemic failure', although praise was reserved for consideration of equality and diversity issues and integration with other agencies.

The responsiveness of consultation with service recipients can also be seen in the open manner Slough Link publishes the results of surveys, although questions could be raised about any conclusions drawn given the size and relevance of a sample group from which only 76 responses included the most from pupils of Slough Grammar School.

The array of council-funded websites and directories for young people's services in Slough is remarkable, reflecting the borough's bold 2006 plan for young people and the active organisation of elections for a regular CYP Cabinet since then.

However Slough's officially-endorsed statement that their commitment made in the light of 'high-profile cases of child abuse, neglect and death' to make 'staying safe' their most important priority, and the promise in their statement of intent to provide 'safe access' to children and young people's services, will now be placed firmly under the spotlight as a new risk assessment of all current cases will be undertaken "to ensure the serious shortcomings in quality assurance arrangements are addressed by strengthening management oversight."

Since the authority was assessed 'good' in all departmental areas by a Joint Area Review in 2006 and began to implement measures to raise standards to 'outstanding' this updated report indicates major complacency has crept in and raises major concerns similar to those seen only recently in Wokingham and Reading.

Oranjepan says:
Whether from economic, financial or demographic pressure, or the bungling of management and the public ability to access services, social care in Berkshire is a precious resource which hits right at the heart of personal quality-of-life measures which could affect us all at some stage. Anything which destabilises support invariably has a disproportionate effect creating insecurity and chaos for those least able to cope - causing severe trouble for those who fall through the gaps when appropriate intervention is missed, not forgetting the wider social impact and problems of clear-up.

Calls for politicians and officers to 'get a grip' are all well and good, but events also show just how easy it is for them to lose their grip.


More on Social Care Services

1 comment:

  1. Nice. I really don't understand anything about social care services and I started looking for info. Thanks for that. Cleaning Services.


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